FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots' 12-member 2009 draft class -- 13 if rookie free agent QB Brian Hoyer is included -- has been dissected and referenced in this blog several times in recent weeks.
The development of those players making the Year 1 to Year 2 jump is crucial to the team's success.
One player, in particular, is flying under the radar a bit. It's fourth-round draft choice Rich Ohrnberger, a guard/center from Penn State.
Patriots followers might remember that he was the player the Patriots selected after trading veteran cornerback Ellis Hobbs during the '09 draft. The team's aggressive move for him on draft day -- dealing two fifth-round picks acquired for Hobbs to move up in the fourth round -- seemed to speak volumes about the scouting report the team had on him.
Ohrnberger had a quiet rookie season, appearing in just three games, mostly on the field-goal protection unit. He had a few snaps at right guard against the Jets on Nov. 12.
Ohrnberger (6-2, 300) is now part of a mix of players vying to become the top interior backup to center Dan Koppen and guards Logan Mankins and Stephen Neal, or perhaps even challenge Koppen for the top job at center.
"This offseason has been a great progression for me as a football player," he said earlier this week. "I had some [physical] hurdles to get over to this offseason, some things I had to get taken care of, but I'm feeling great now. I've been here since January, just trying to be the best teammate and player I can be out here."
Ohrnberger, who played mostly left guard at Penn State, remains limited in team drills from his undisclosed physical ailment. Once he returns, he'll compete with Dan Connolly, Ryan Wendell, Ted Larsen and George Bussey for that top interior backup role. It's a role that has been important to the team in the past, such as 2003, when Russ Hochstein stepped in for Damien Woody at left guard in Super Bowl XXXVIII.
Ohrnberger has made it a point to focus on himself, and not the players he's competing against.
"They're all great players," he said. "The best and only thing I can do for myself is just concentrate on what I'm doing and try to be the best I can be on every snap."